# Tarski’s result on the undefinability of truth

Assume $\mathbf{L}$ is a logic which is under contradictory negation  and has the usual truth-functional connectives  . Assume also that $\mathbf{L}$ has a notion of formula   with one variable and of substitution. Assume that $T$ is a theory of $\mathbf{L}$ in which we can define surrogates for formulae of $\mathbf{L}$, and in which all true instances of the substitution relation  and the truth-functional connective relations are provable. We show that either $T$ is inconsistent or $T$ can’t be augmented with a truth predicate   $\mathbf{True}$ for which the following T-schema holds

 $\mathbf{True}(^{\prime}\phi^{\prime})\leftrightarrow\phi$

Assume that the formulae with one variable of $\mathbf{L}$ have been indexed by some suitable set that is representable in $T$ (otherwise the predicate $\mathbf{True}$ would be next to useless, since if there’s no way to speak of sentences  of a logic, there’s little hope to define a truth-predicate for it). Denote the $i$:th element in this indexing by $B_{i}$. Consider now the following open formula with one variable

 $\mathbf{Liar}(x)=\neg\mathbf{True}(B_{x}(x))$

Now, since $\mathbf{Liar}$ is an open formula with one free variable   it’s indexed by some $i$. Now consider the sentence $\mathbf{Liar}(i)$. From the T-schema we know that

 $\mathbf{True}(\mathbf{Liar}(i))\leftrightarrow\mathbf{Liar(i)}$

and by the definition of $\mathbf{Liar}$ and the fact that $i$ is the of $\mathbf{Liar}(x)$ we have

 $\mathbf{True}(\mathbf{Liar}(i))\leftrightarrow\neg\mathbf{True}(\mathbf{Liar(i% )})$

which clearly is absurd. Thus there can’t be an of $T$ with a predicate $\mathbf{Truth}$ for which the T-schema holds.

We have made several assumptions  on the logic $\mathbf{L}$ which are crucial in order for this proof to go through. The most important is that $\mathbf{L}$ is closed under contradictory negation. There are logics which allow truth-predicates, but these are not usually closed under contradictory negation (so that it’s possible that $\mathbf{True}(\mathbf{Liar}(i))$ is neither true nor false). These logics usually have stronger notions of negation, so that a sentence $\neg P$ says more than just that $P$ is not true, and the proposition   that $P$ is simply not true is not expressible.

An example of a logic for which Tarski’s undefinability result does not hold is the so-called Independence Friendly logic, the semantics of which is based on game theory and which allows various generalised quantifiers  (the Henkin branching quantifier, etc.) to be used.

Title Tarski’s result on the undefinability of truth TarskisResultOnTheUndefinabilityOfTruth 2013-03-22 13:49:19 2013-03-22 13:49:19 mathcam (2727) mathcam (2727) 14 mathcam (2727) Theorem msc 03B99 IFLogic